Stephanie Iron Shooter
shoots straight with TERS students about suicide
Tribal Montana/Wyoming Leadership Council Program Coordinator,
Stephanie Iron Shooter shares her personal experience with suicide to
Two Eagle River School students last Thursday. Iron Shooter travels
Montana reservations to target Native youth with suicide prevention
trainings and seminars. (Lailani Upham photo)
PABLO — Tips and advice on suicide prevention can
only go so deep with Native youth – but tell them a life experience and
how the death call was conquered will earn applause.
That is just what happened at Two Eagle River
School last Thursday when Stephanie Iron Shooter, The Montana-Wyoming
Tribal Leaders Council “Planting Seeds of Hope” program manager, made a
visit to conduct a short training on suicide prevention.
Iron Shooter was in Polson for a Clan Leadership
training with the organization and was requested by, Big Brother Big
Sisters of Flathead to make an appearance at Two Eagle to speak with
the “Bigs,” but the plan extended into speaking to all the students
ages 15 and older, according to Julia Williams, BBBS Director.
The Planting Seeds of Hope program, a project
branched from the MWTLC organization, launched in May of 2006. The
program’s motto is to "honor your life, honor your ancestors." The
organization works with the Blackfeet, Crow, Northern Cheyenne,
Northern Arapaho, Fort Belknap, and Fort Peck.
PSOH Tribal Training Coordinators work on crisis
intervention teams, grief support group development, and life promotion
trainings. The groups have also developed tribal specific suicide
prevention plans that include culture components and collaborations
with IHS, BIA, schools, and recently Tribal Veterans Reps.
Iron Shooter paced the floor, meeting the students
eye-to-eye as she pointed out things to do when it came to facing a
suicidal friend or relative. “Getting them to talk and listen are very
important, and stay with them as long as possible” she said. “Ask them
straight out, why they want to do it,“ she added. Asking and getting
the person to talk and think it out and to let them know you care helps
she advised. “But remember you have no control over whether they do it
or not,” she stressed.
According to a study 70 percent of suicide
involves an alcohol or drug substance. “Your mind is not normal and
it’s more likely to happen,” Iron Shooter said.
The students tuned in but were reluctant to answer
questions during the suicide prevention training. However, when she
asked if anyone experienced someone trying to commit suicide one
student spoke up and disclosed that a friend of his had tried it more
than twice. The student shared the incidents were over his friend’s
Many people consider suicide because of a close
relationship that is hurting, Iron Shooter said. “Many times it has to
do with a relationship and not always a love relationship,” she said.
“A lot of the times its because of a family member such as a
As she asked the students questions, one young man
blurted out, “Well, what’s your story?”
Iron Shooter told the students of the first time
she experienced the hopeless life-taking mind-set was when she was
16-years-old on the Fort Belknap Reservation. Iron Shooter said she
tried and tried to reach out to her mother when she was feeling the
hopelessness – but she felt the cry went on deaf ears. “She wouldn’t do
anything,” she said. Then the idea of taking her life grew until it
With many packages of sleeping pills and a bottle
of vodka the young Iron Shooter kept her attempt undercover. “I didn’t
tell anyone and went to my room,” she told the students. Her vivid
memory of the experience is that she remembers getting sick and seeing
blotches of light. Immediately she knew something was not right and did
something out of the ordinary for her – and she prayed. “I prayed and
asked God if I wake up from this I will promise to get help.” When she
did wake up and got the help, it wasn’t what she expected. “I was sent
to a psychiatric ward where there were severe mental disorders and it
was freaky and scary.” It was then she made a vow to win this battle
over her life and help others.
She ended her session with the same eye-to-eye
contact and smile, “And so I decided to help my people with my story.”
The story reached the hearts of the students with a cheer and applause.
In closing she added, “If you think you don’t have
anyone – call me. We talk to kids from many reservations. We’re here
for you – talking to someone means so much,” she said.